A/N to follow...
"You're doing great, Katniss," Prim says calmly, as her hands come up to smooth down her sister's sweat-matted hair. Katniss doesn't respond, but continues to grit her teeth until the pain subsides. Prim dabs her sister's forehead with a damp cloth as Katniss exhales in relief.
"What's the most pain you have ever been in?" I startle at the sound of Katniss's gravelly voice directed at me a few moments later. It is the first sound, besides heavy breathing, that I have heard her make during this whole process. Her face has flushed a dark red, and sweat beads around her lips. "Tell me," she croaks out insistently. Her mouth must be so dry with the way her tongue smacks against the roof of her mouth, its not wonder Prim has been giving her sips of water frequently.
"Um," I think briefly. The shock was too much to remember the pain of being shot, but I can clearly remember that chair hitting my ribs. "I would say in Rhode Island, when I hurt my ribs," I admit. She smirks at my answer, seemingly self-satisfied, but just a heartbeat later she is grasping the bedding around her again, her eyes screwed shut, and her jaw clenched tightly. It is clear the pain is back.
A few seconds later the harsh look on her face softens and her eyes slowly open, reflecting the relief of this small reprieve.
"Well, I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is much more painful." she sighs.
I chuckle louder than I mean to; I blame my nerves mostly, but also because I don't doubt her in the slightest. My wife is the strongest person I have ever met, which she has more than proven with her silent fight to bring our child into this world. I catch her eyes with mine briefly.
"I love you," I tell her plainly.
"I know," Katniss responds with a wink, causing Prim to snort and shake her head at her.
"Peeta, are you sure you want to stay?" Lily asks for the third time as she pulls her head out from under a blanket she has positioned to cover Katniss from the waist down.
I raise an eyebrow at my mother-in-law, and she sighs.
"I know you said you wanted to stay, but...events are going to be...different from this moment on," she tells me cryptically. "It's basically unheard of that you are even here. I have never attended a birth where the father wanted to be present," she informs me, so I turn to Katniss.
"Do you want me to stay?" I ask, and she nods furiously before wincing and baring down again. I take her hand into mine and drag my thumb across it before bringing it to my mouth and kissing it gently.
"I'm staying," I tell my mother-in-law firmly.
"Alright," Lily says in acceptance, then turns her attention back to her daughter. "Katniss, the next time you feel the pain coming you are going to bear down." Katniss nods in response.
A few moments later Katniss gasps, and her eyes twist shut.
"Ok," Katniss groans.
"Bear down, Katniss," her mother commands.
Katniss complies, squeezing on one of my hands and one of Prim's. When she can't push anymore she gasps for air, and lets her head fall back against the headboard with a soft thud.
"You did great," her sister soothes.
"You're perfect," I tell her matter-of-factly as I catch the glistening beads of sweat that runs down her temple with a cloth. She rolls her eyes in return, but a moment later her face contorts again, and her mother sees the change as well.
"Push," she instructs, and her daughter grits her teeth once again. I watch in silent awe, my hand clasping hers tightly, as she tries desperately to give our child life.
I can't be sure how long this has gone on for. Katniss had felt the first twinges of pain before the sun rose this morning, and now the sky is starting to turn a purple-tinged orange as the sun begins to set.
My wife is beyond tired, her eyelids are sagging, her lips are slightly parted as she pants for her breaths, and her skin has taken on a pallid color. I begin to fear that she won't be able to accomplish the task when…
"The head is right here, Katniss. One more push and you get to meet your child," Lily says with a grin, and for the first time in a while Katniss smiles. She nods her head, and when the pain comes again her jaw tightens and the determination she lacked just moments ago seems to have returned with vigor.
"Push!" her mother yells, and I begin to mumble the word under my breath. My heart is taking on a stuttering cadence as excitement begins to bubble up inside of me. "That's it, that's it, a little more now," Lily informs her. "Keep going….Yes!" I watch our baby, with a bluish-purplish tinge to its skin, wrenched from my wife's body, as Katniss lets out a shuddering gasp of relief.
Lily examines the baby, and glances up at Prim, who seems to understand the discreet gesture and is at her mother's side in a heart beat. My eyes look to the baby again, and my stomach sinks. I have never been to a birth before, but don't they cry, or move or…?
"What's wrong?" Katniss asks frantically, while the Lily and Prim quickly wrap the baby in a blanket, and murmur to each other in low voices. "What's wrong?" she asks again, her voice raised. She pulls herself up, so she can see better. Her sister and mother continue to ignore us, taking the bundled baby to a nearby table, keeping their back towards us, blocking our view.
"Is my baby ok!?" my wife screeches. Fat tears have begun rolling down her cheeks when she looks to me. "Peeta," she gasps, as her whole body begins to shake. I go to open my mouth to say something comforting, but no words come to me, and my breath begins to get caught in my throat, and I think I begin to shake as well.
What couldn't be more than a few seconds seems to stretch on for hours, and the whole time Katniss and I cling to each other desperately as we fear for our child's life. Then a small, gasping cry erupts into the room, followed by another, then another, until finally the cries begin coming strong and loud. Lily spins around, our baby in her hands. She looks up at us with glassy eyes.
"It's a girl," she announces over her granddaughter's cries.
"Oh god," Katniss blurts out, her hand coming up to cover her mouth, and she begins to sob. "I thought she was dead," she blubbers. Prim and her mother shake their heads in unison.
"No, her airway was just blocked; we needed to clean it out." Lily walks towards Katniss, and slowly places the baby into her daughter's shaky arms. The moment Katniss's eyes meet the dark blue eyes of our daughter her sobs of relief become tears of joy, and her trembling fingers move to brush against her child's pink cheeks.
"Hi," she whispers gently, and the baby settles down almost immediately, causing the lump in my throat to grow three times its original size.
After taking the time to be just mother and child, she gestures her head towards me, before her eyes find our daughter's once again.
"I think there's someone else who wants to meet you," she coos, a bright smile tugging at her lips. I cautiously lean towards Katniss, outstretching my arms, and when she gingerly places the swathed baby into my hands a laughing sob escapes my throat. All the strength I had for Katniss as she gave birth and as she worried for our child's life is gone, and all that remains is intense unconditional love for the tiny girl in my hands… our daughter.
"What are you going to name her?" Prim breaks my trance, and I have to blink to clear the unshed tears from my eyes. I look to Katniss for her to answer.
"Charlotte," she informs Prim, who squeals at the answer.
"That's a beautiful name," she beams.
"Fitting for such a beautiful girl," Lily adds.
I couldn't agree more.
We christen Charlotte on a Sunday a couple of months later—on March 17th in fact, the same day the British decide to leave Boston and move towards Halifax from what Haymitch tells me.
I look down at the peacefully sleeping child in my arms, the white from her dress accentuating the slightly olive hue to her skin, and tiny tendrils of black hair poking out from under her bonnet. She suddenly yawns and her sleepy eyes open, finally focusing on my face, and they brighten.
Lily and Katniss tell me that all babies are born with blue eyes, but I just know Charlotte will keep hers. At least Prim agrees with me.
The service continues smoothly. Our daughter falls back asleep, and doesn't even wake when water is sprinkled on her head. At the end, we walk out the doors into the sunny cool March day. After speaking to a few people outside we make our way towards our carriage. Charlotte coos and giggles the whole ride home.
When we walk inside our house, Prim and Lily are already inside getting ready for the arrival of our guests for the small party we are having in honor of Charlotte.
Guests begin to arrive. A majority of us move to the sitting room. I stand on the edge of the room, with Katniss at my side , my arm wrapped around her waist, holding her tight, when I feel an arm on my shoulder. I know who it is before even having to turn.
"Mrs. Mellark, do you mind if I borrow your husband for a few moments?" Haymitch asks.
"Not too long," she says sternly, "We have guests."
"I promise I won't keep him long," he grins at her, and even though she sighs in response she reciprocates the smile. She then leans towards me. Her lips brush against my cheek just seconds before she traps the soft part of my ear between her teeth, letting go a moment later and pressing her lips to my cheek for a chaste kiss—but my wife is anything but chaste, and I feel a twitching in my pants.
I watch her walk further into the room and towards our guests before I turn to Haymitch. I purposely ignore the look of mock disgust on his face, and move past him down the hall and into my study. I offer Haymitch a drink, which he takes readily, and I sink into my chair.
"So how are things in Philadelphia?" I ask to begin the conversation. He shrugs as he sips at his rum.
"They are a bunch of idiots, a common fisherman has more information than us, and more brains too." He laughs mirthlessly. "Is there anyway I can convince you to change your mind, come down there with me, get them to listen to reason?" he begs.
"No, I love my life the way it is. If I can help in any way I am going to have to be able to do it from here."
Haymitch snorts in reply. "Eventually when we get these redcoats out of this country the people are going to be looking for someone to lead them to their new way of life. They are going to look for someone they respect and trust, someone like you." Now it is my turn to laugh.
"And I'm sure George Washington will do just fine, when they inevitably decide it should be him," I smirk.
"Washington is an overdramatic, sullen fool with a mean streak. This country needs hope, not doom and gloom."
"It's not going to happen, Haymitch. That's not for me." I watch him sag a little bit more into his chair.
"Yeah I know," he sighs. " Well, I hope your family knows how lucky they are."
"I'm the one who is lucky," I tell him honestly, and my words seem to coax a genuine smile from him. "Now what did you actually want to talk to me about?" I raise an eyebrow.
"What do you mean?" he asks a little too innocently.
"What I mean is, you knew I was going to say no….so…." Haymitch gulps down the rest of his drink, and releases a small belch.
"I'm going to ask Portia to marry me." His eyes are pinned to the bottom of his empty glass.
"Haymitch!" I bounce out of my chair. "That's wonderful!" I pat him hard on his arm, and he looks up to me and grins.
"Yeah well...I love her, but I know it's going to be made into a big thing, and I worry it will be too much for…"
"I doesn't matter," I cut him off. "You love each other, you'll make it work."
"Still the idealistic boy I met all those years ago," he grins.
"You bet, and from what I see, a little bit of that doe-eyed dreaminess has begun to rub off on you." He grunts in disgust, but soon we are both laughing heartily.
"I'm glad to have met you, Peeta Mellark," he tells me.
"And I you, Haymitch Abernathy. Now let's get back to this party, shall we?"
A few hours later after our guests have all left and Charlotte has been put down in her bassinet, I walk up to my wife, wrap my arms around her waist, and pull her flush against me, nuzzling my face into her neck.
"I love you," I whisper against her skin.
"I love you, too," she responds, her slender arms wrapping around me and holding me tightly. When we pull away she cocks her head at me and smiles.
"I accidentally overheard part of your conversation with Haymitch."
"Accidentally overheard?" I bark out a laugh, and she bites her lip and rolls her eyes.
"I heard what you turned down," she begins again. "Does Haymitch really believe that the people would want you to lead them?"
I shrug at her. "I think Haymitch thinks a lot of things, doesn't mean that they are true."
"Well, I think you could. I think you would make a great leader, the best in fact," she states, looking squarely at me, her stormy eyes remarkably serious. I smile.
"It's too much work, too much uncertainty, too much time away from you and Charlotte."
"Sometimes sacrifices need to be made to make a better life," she tells me.
"Then it is the country that will need to make the sacrifice, because this is my life, here with you and Charlotte, and that's what I want." I lean forward and press my lips to hers. "Always," I say against her mouth.
"Ok," she relents, but a moment later a devious grin pulls at her lips.
"What?" I ask
"Well, if you are going to give up being a ruler of this part of the world, I feel it's only fitting that I show you how beneficial that decision was." Her eyes darken, and her teeth tug in her bottom lip, and the sight makes me gulp, and that is when she drops to her knees.
July, 4th 1781 (5 years later)
I watch the man at the podium, the perfect bow of his mouth enunciating each word from the parchment before him. The way he has with words has always sent shivers up my spine, and done more for me than any of the dirty texts I used to have smuggled to me from Europe.
It's been five years since the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, and although war still rages in many parts of this country, this man and his long-time mentor thought it fitting for there to be a reading of the document that cemented the necessity of this war, the proof of what we are still fighting for. They, of course, were right.
The common is filled with people enraptured by my husband's words. I wonder to myself if they have noticed the bits of shaggy blond hair, indicating his need for a haircut, poking out from underneath his hat as he reads.
He is still the most beautiful man I have ever met.
This war has taken so much from us. There are times when I miss those we have lost so terribly I have a hard time getting out of bed, but this war is also what brought him to me, and it's hard not to be grateful.
I look around, quickly spotting my two children chasing a butterfly, their baby cousin toddling behind them. I look over to my sister and her husband, a doctor. He is kind to her and their son, and she always looks happy. I could not ask for a better brother-in-law.
The speech ends, and I watch my husband move down the stairs of the podium, and come directly towards me, ignoring the eruption of cheers all around us. He has kept his promise, to always be here for us, for me. His work with the war has been local, and though Massachusetts Bay considers him a trusted politician and advisor, he has never strayed past her borders for business in all this time.
When he reaches me, he wraps his arms around me, and pulls me in tight, like he is hugging me for the first time, and the unique warmth I feel whenever I am in my husband's arms begins to run through my veins.
"How did I do?" he asks nervously.
"Perfect, of course," I tell him. "Not that these people expect any less from Peeta Mellark." I grin, and he rolls his eyes, but presses his lips to mine a second later.
"I love you, Katniss," he says.
"I know," I tease, just to watch his eyes sparkle. I turn to look for the children.
"Charlotte. William," I call. When they look up and see their father by my side, their faces light up.
"Daddy!" Charlotte cries, as she and her brother begin to sprint towards us. Baby Ben finds it hard to keep pace, so Prim scoops him up into her arms and walks towards us.
The children attach themselves to Peeta's legs, and his hands come down to gently stroke both of their heads. The sight makes my heart clench, and I sigh.
There is still a long way to go before this country is safe and whole again, but my life, my little part of this giant world couldn't be more perfect.
Thank you so much to the lovely Court81981, and Pookieh who reached out to me all those months ago when I asked for beta help. Not only did I get sets of eyes to clean up my mistakes, but amazing friends as well! Thanks you so much ladies! And Court... Thanks for nerding it up with me chapter after chapter...You are amazing and I love you. Treason wouldn't be half of what it is without you!
I would also like to give my thanks to HGRomance who gave me the original prompt for this story: Everlark during the American Revolutionary War! I can only hope that Treason lived up to her expectations!
And thank you to the lovely Ro Nordmann for the beautiful cover art!
And last but not least... Thank you so much to all the readers who supported this story through everlark separation, and coma's and angst and steamy colonial sex, and infrequent updates! You are all amazing! Much Love!
Now for your final FUN FACTS:
1. Benjamin Franklin wrote the first Declaration of Independence! In 1775, Franklin, disgusted with the arrogance of the British and appalled by the bloodshed at Lexington and Concord, wrote a Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson was enthusiastic. But, he noted, many other delegates to the Continental Congress were "revolted at it." It would take another year of bitter conflict to persuade the Congress to vote for the Declaration of Independence written by Jefferson - with some astute editorial suggestions by Franklin.
2. By 1779, as many as one in seven Americans in Washington's army was black! At first Washington was hesitant about enlisting blacks. But when he heard they had fought well at Bunker Hill, he changed his mind. The all-black First Rhode Island Regiment - composed of 33 freedmen and 92 slaves who were promised freedom if they served until the end of the war - distinguished itself in the Battle of Newport. Later, they were all but wiped out in a British attack.
3. Both men and women in the 18th century held their hairstyles in place with large amounts of hair pomade made from beef fat and then covered it with powder, usually made from wheat or rice flour.
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